Doctors are still prescribing medicines that contain sugar, even though there are usually sugar-free options now available.
Although parents are worried about giving their children too much sugar and a recent study among pharmacists in the north west of England showed they were also keen to offer sugar free alternatives doctors remain the stumbling block.
When writing out a prescription, doctors need only add the letters "SF" ("sugarfree") which would then give the pharmacist the right to select an alternative, possibly by using a computer database search. But without those letters, the pharmacist can only hand out exactly what has been prescribed, sugar and all.
Iain Mackie at the University of Manchester Dental Hospital says that doctors' concerns that sugar-free drugs are unpalatable are groundless. "This does not seem to be a problem, especially if a child starts off by taking sugar-free medicines and is not allowed to develop a taste for particularly sugary medicine," he explains.
Parents who have to give their children medicines containing sugar should make sure they are taken at mealtimes, and certainly not last thing at night (BMJ, July 15, 1995).